Tag Archives: hatchback

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES

Pokey Mitsubishi Mirage offers bare bones performance

Last year when I drove the 109-horsepower Nissan Versa Note I thought I’d driven the slowest accelerating car made in the past 10 years, but that was before I’d driven the new Mitsubishi Mirage. This makes the pokey Versa Note feel frisky.mitsu

Mirage is a pleasant looking little hatchback designed top to bottom for the entry-level buyer who needs new wheels, but can’t afford much. It’s a small market segment, but let’s face it, there is a need for inexpensive entry-level economy cars. We’re not all rich, or even middle class, these days.

I’m happy that such low cost economy models exist. But I really expect a new car to have enough power to get out of its own way, or at least that of the aging winter beater car that’s tailgating me.

For the record Mirage has a 1.2-liter 3-cylinder engine that creates … wait for it … 74 horsepower. In short it’s slow to pull away from stoplights and requires quite a long run down an entry ramp to make it up to highway speeds. Under heavy acceleration the drivetrain groans considerably. Mentally, I was groaning too. Continue reading 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES

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2014 Mazda3i 4-door Grand Touring

Mazda3 delivers good looks, modest price, driving flairmazda1
The new Mazda3 is better looking than its predecessor, gets better gas mileage and still delivers driving flair, a fair accomplishment for a modestly priced family sports sedan.

First, Mazda reshaped its former gaping smiling nose with this more Audi-like big grille and swept its profile lines back enough to make the tested 4-door sedan look almost as good as the hatchback version. This is a low, lean, lithe sedan at just shy of 2,800 lbs. in this brilliant “soul red” test car.

Like other automakers, Mazda also has grown its formerly subcompact to compact dimensions, with a 106.3-inch wheelbase and 180.3-inch long body. The result, a car that handles four adults easily and offers a fair sized, 12.4-cubic foot trunk.

That’s the practical side, then there’s the fun stuff, like how the car performs (although still highly efficient) and all the tech features that you get.

Mazda uses what it calls Skyactiv technology to provide a high-revving, high-performing four-cylinder engine that also remains surprisingly fuel stingy. The base car, and the tested Grand Touring, top trim level for the base i models, features a 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G I4 that creates 155 horsepower. That’s tops, says Kelly Blue Book, for base models in this segment. Next in line are the Mitsubishi Lancer and Kia Forte at 148 horses. Continue reading 2014 Mazda3i 4-door Grand Touring

2014 Nissan Versa Note SV

Versa is inexpensive, versatile, but extremely underpowered
Rarely have I driven a car as underpowered as the Versa Note, Nissan’s new four-door hatchback version of the Versa, which debuted last year as a sedan.versa

Naturally this is an economy model, but still, with a 1.6-liter, I4 that cranks only 109 horsepower the acceleration is lackluster, and that’s being kind. Adding to the car’s giddyap woes is its Xtronic CVT, or continuously variable transmission.

Nissan has some of the best CVTs around, designed to increase fuel economy and give smooth quiet seamless shifts. This one does just that, but, oh my. I found myself disengaging the tranny’s overdrive system via a button on the shifter just to get out of the way of traffic as I “accelerated” away from stoplights.

I had done this with the sedan version too, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. Still, it’s a tad embarrassing when other small cars pull out and around you as the car lumbers up to speed. Those were NOT friendly stares or looks of admiration for the hatchback. Oh, and there’s small engine moan as you creep up to speed.

I feel compelled to start with this sour note because anyone driving this car will immediately notice its lack of power. Yet I know full well that Note buyers will be looking for economy and the utility of a hatchback, vs. the sedan version.
There really are plenty of both. Continue reading 2014 Nissan Versa Note SV

2014 Ford Fiesta SE

Small cars can be fun to drive if spunky and good handling

Driving small cars isn’t a turnoff to me. I enjoy their economy, their simplicity their easy handling and their low cost.14FiestaST_go-around_15_HR

But frugal needn’t mean blah, and Ford’s Fiesta has learned that lesson. It offers a spunky look and feel, good handling and an overall simplicity that helps you enjoy the pure driving ability of the car. And it does it without all the electronic gee-whiz gadgets that add so much cost to today’s cars, yet it was no fuddy-duddy.

I drove the SE hatchback, the mid-level model of seven trims. There is the base S sedan starting at a bargain basement $14,000, all the way up to a racy ST hatchback with a turbocharged four-banger at $21,400.
The Race Red SE hatch is indicative of what many Fiesta buyers will select and lists at $16,050.

First, the hatch gives you more cargo hauling capability and it looks sportier in profile than the sedan. There’s even a little spoiler in back.

Standard to all but the ST model is a 1.6-liter, Duratec I4 that creates 120 horsepower that is effectively put to use via an easy shifting 5-speed manual gearbox. The Fiesta never seems slow or pokey. While no speed racer it’ll get up to highway speeds easily and feels downright frisky as you pull away from stoplights, having good low-end torque. That’s quite a contrast to the Nissan Versa Note I tested recently. It felt way underpowered, yet these cars are almost identical in price, amenities and weight and the Note was just 11 horsepower shy of the Fiesta. Continue reading 2014 Ford Fiesta SE

2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Veloster Turbo rocks the entry-level market

Hyundai wasn’t happy to leave well enough alone, so it went and added a turbo to its sporty coupe/hatch, the Veloster.

Hyundai Veloster TurboYes, you’ll still hear jokes about the name and its similarity to the famous dinos in “Jurassic Park,” but you won’t care. You’ll have a sporty car with reasonable oomph and a darned attractive entry price.

The Veloster Turbo starts at $21,950 and packs a twin-scroll turbo that takes the hatch up to 201 horses from the rather tame 138 hp the base model offers. It’s the same 1.6-liter direct-injected engine, but with the turbo it creates a lot more horses. Torque isn’t a neck strainer though.

The turbo spools up a little slower than some on pricier sports models, so there’s a bit of lag and it doesn’t punch you as you might expect. What you get is more gradual power, but power that nonetheless gives this Veloster better overall acceleration and top-end power than the base model. Continue reading 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

Sporty, useful, practical, some hatchbacks have it all

Hatchbacks are fantastic and Hyundai’s latest entry the Elantra GT proves the point.2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

Sporty, useful, practical and bordering on fun to drive a hatchback often gives you more for your money than any other car design on the market. Think of crossovers as hatchbacks on steroids and you get the picture for useful and practical, but without the sporty. Continue reading 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT